Israel at War

UN court keeps genocide case against Israel alive

A U.N. court demanded that Israel try to contain death and damage in its military offensive against Gaza.

UN court keeps genocide case against Israel alive
Pro-Palestinian activists react near the International Court of Justice, or World Court, in The Hague, Netherlands on Friday.
Patrick Post/AP
SMS

The United Nations’ top court stopped short Friday of ordering a cease-fire in Gaza in a genocide case but demanded that Israel try to contain death and damage in its military offensive in the tiny coastal enclave.

South Africa brought the case, which goes to the core of one of the world’s most intractable conflicts, and had asked the court to order Israel to halt its operation.

In the highly anticipated decision made by a panel of 17 judges, the International Court of Justice decided not to throw out the case — and ordered six so-called provisional measures to protect Palestinians in Gaza.

"The court is acutely aware of the extent of the human tragedy that is unfolding in the region and is deeply concerned about the continuing loss of life and human suffering,” Joan E. Donoghue, the court's president, said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will “continue to do what is necessary” to defend itself, following a ruling from the top U.N. court that harshly criticized Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu rejected the genocide claims as “outrageous” and vowed to press ahead with the war.

“We will continue to do what is necessary to defend out country and defend our people,” he said.

6 US hostages remain in Gaza as families push for their release
6 US hostages remain in Gaza as families push for their release

6 US hostages remain in Gaza as families push for their release

A U.S. State Department spokesperson told Scripps News that the U.S. is actively working with Israel, Qatar and Egypt on hostage negotiations.

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Friday's decision is only an interim one; it could take years for the full case brought by South Africa to be considered. Israel rejects the genocide accusation and had asked the court to throw the charges out.

While the case winds its way through the court, South Africa has asked the judges “as a matter of extreme urgency” to impose provisional measures.

Top of the South African list was a request for the court to order Israel to “immediately suspend its military operations in and against Gaza.” But the court declined to do that.

South Africa also asked for Israel to take “reasonable measures” to prevent genocide and allow access for desperately needed aid.

Israel often boycotts international tribunals and U.N. investigations, saying they are unfair and biased. But this time, it took the rare step of sending a high-level legal team — a sign of how seriously it regards the case and likely the fear that any court order to halt operations would be a major blow to the country’s international standing.

Israel launched its massive air and ground assault on Gaza after Hamas militants stormed through Israeli communities on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people, mainly civilians, and abducting another 250.

The offensive has decimated vast swaths of the territory and driven nearly 85% of its 2.3 million people from their homes.

More than 26,000 Palestinians have been killed, the Health Ministry in the Hamas-run enclave said on Friday. The ministry does not differentiate between combatants and civilians in its death toll, but has said about two-thirds of those killed were women and children.

The Israeli military claims at least 9,000 of those killed in the nearly four-month conflict are Hamas militants.

U.N. officials have expressed fears that even more people could die from disease, with at least one-quarter of the population facing starvation.